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Articles in Politics & History

Book Review: Agents of Empire

August 30, 2015
agents of empire

In the continents-spanning 16th-century clash between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, a crucial role was played by Albania – and by two families at the heart of events

Book Review: Death in Florence

August 29, 2015
death in florence

At the end of the 14th century, Lorenzo de’ Medici and the friar Savonarola began a series of clashes in palace and pulpit that would end up altering the course of the city’s history. A lively new book tells the story.

Classics Reissued: Salvaged Pages

August 25, 2015
salvaged pages

A new edition of this collection of Holocaust diaries by young people captures the voices and the worries of the Nazis’ most innocent victims

Book Review: The End of Tsarist Russia

August 19, 2015
the end of tsarist russia

A powerful new book by one of our best historians examines from new sources the torturous path Russia took to the First World War

Book Review: Under Another Sky

August 14, 2015
under another sky

Part history, part travel guide, part novel – a wonderful new book takes readers on a tour of Roman Britain

Book Review: The President and the Apprentice

August 7, 2015
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The settled opinion of historians has always been that President Eisenhower personally hated his vice president, Richard Nixon; a vigorous, unmissable new book tries to set that record straight

Book Review: Hirohito’s War

August 6, 2015
hirohito’s war

A massive new history details the war in the Pacific Theater during WWII

Book Review: The Real Lives of Roman Britain

August 3, 2015
the real lives of roman britain

Archeological research has uncovered more than ever about the ordinary men and women who lived in Britain during the centuries of Roman occupation. A lively new book assesses what we know

None of the Above

August 1, 2015
None of the Above

Political scientist Ian Bremmer’s new book looks at the changing nature of American power in the 21st century, but just how many false premises does the book employ?

Painful to Nice Feelings

August 1, 2015
Painful to Nice Feelings

He sailed around Cape Horn and wrote a classic about it, and he fought for the downtrodden in Boston courts for thirty years – he was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and he’s the subject of a thought-provoking new biography.

Book Review: The Eagle in Splendour

July 30, 2015
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“How a Court LOOKS,” remarked a courtier to one of England’s more successful modern-day monarchs, “is at least as important as how a Court WORKS.” A re-issued study from Philip Mansel looks at form and function in the court of Napoleon Bonaparte

Book Review: For God and Kaiser

July 28, 2015
for god and kaiser

“Austria,” quipped Talleyrand, “has the tiresome habit of always being beaten” – but Richard Bassett’s vigorous new history of the Imperial Austrian Army begs to differ!

Book Review: Braddock’s Defeat

July 27, 2015
braddock’s defeat cover

A French army and a British army stumble upon each other in the wilderness of the New World, and their conflict changes the nature of the world’s biggest war

Book Review: Rome’s Revolution

July 27, 2015
rome’s revolution

The epic change in ancient Rome from a Republic to an Empire hinged on one man: Julius Caesar. A new history tells the familiar story.

Book Review: The Two-State Delusion

July 27, 2015
two-state delusion cover

A veteran state conflict analyst looks at the mother of such conflicts: the long strife between Israel and Palestine

Book Review: Sicily

July 23, 2015
sicily

Veteran historian John Julius Norwich attempts to cram over 800 years of Sicilian history into 300 pages – and because he’s John Julius Norwich, he very nearly succeeds

Book Review: Last to Die

July 11, 2015
last to die

Military historian Stephen Harding tells the poignant story of the last soldier killed in World War II

Book Review: The American Revolution

July 4, 2015
loa american revolution

Just in time for America’s Independence Day, the Library of America presents its newest production: a two-volume collection of some of the pamphlets that so inflamed the colonial population in the decade leading up to the Revolution

Book Review: The Duke’s Assassin

July 1, 2015
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A brutal assassination in 1537 changed the course of Florentine history, and eleven years later, the assassin was himself murdered. Case closed? A fascinating new book thinks not!

The Book and the Boy

July 1, 2015
The Book and the Boy

A thousand years ago, a refined lady at the Japanese Court wrote the first and one of the greatest novels of all time, The Tale of Genji; Dennis Washburn does the latest translation of this immense work, with stunning results.

Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

July 1, 2015
Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

Most people today know him only from the libretto of one short opera, but in his own day, he was a famous poet, playwright, and scholar – and a compulsive litigant. Luciano Mangiafico looks at the life of Giovanni Verga.

Book Review: How Britain Saved the West

June 19, 2015
when britain saved the west

For a key interval in 1940, Britain stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany at its peak – and that familiar story of determination and ultimate victory is the subject of Robin Prior’s new book

Book Review: Nixon’s Nuclear Specter

June 15, 2015
nixon’s nuclear specter cover

At the height of the Vietnam War, President Nixon engaged in an incredibly risky game of nuclear brinksmanship – a richly-researched new book tells the story

Book Review: Yanks in the RAF

June 13, 2015
yanks in the raf cover

While America was still technically neutral in Great Britain’s fight against Germany, a handful of American flyers traveled to England and volunteered to fly in the RAF – a fascinating new book tells their story

The Management of Savagery

June 1, 2015
The Management of Savagery

Many new books – some excellent, some awful – are now seeking to explain the terrorist group ISIS, but the group’s own origins dynamics are dauntingly complex. Greg Waldmann tries to make sense of it all.

No Doubters in the Shipyards

June 1, 2015
No Doubters in the Shipyards

Celebrated biographer H. W. Brands has written the first full-dress of Ronald Reagan since the former president’s death in 2004 – but does Reagan elude him, as he has so many biographers? Steve Donoghue reviews.

Book Review: First Over There

May 26, 2015
first over there cover

On a chilly day in late May, 1918, American troops went into battle in the World War I for the first time – a gripping new history tells the story

In Paperback: Vesuvius

May 24, 2015
vesuvius cover

Now in paperback: a fascinating history of mankind’s interactions with the most famous volcano in the world

Classics Reissued: Gallipoli

May 24, 2015
gallipoli cover

The mad debacle of the Dardanelles campaign is now 100 years in the past, and to mark the anniversary, a classic account is reprinted

Book Review: The Great War of Our Time

May 24, 2015
the great war for our time cover

A former deputy director of the CIA reflects on his time on the front lines in this frustrating memoir

Book Review: The Unraveling

May 24, 2015
the unraveling cover

A former key player in the Coalition’s conquest and administration of Iraq reflects on her time there

Book Review: Fracture

May 17, 2015
fracture cover

In the wake of the First World War, unimaginable energies were unleashed upon the societies of the Western world. A fascinating new book attempts to assess the results.

Book Review: Whirlwind

May 16, 2015
whirlwind cover

John Ferling, great historian of 18th century America, here tells the story of the American Revolution itself, in typically riveting fashion

Book Review: Cursed Victory

May 11, 2015
cursed victory cover

A noted Israeli scholar and ‘refusnik’ writes a reserved and thorough history of the occupied territories

Book Review: The Constitution – An Introduction

May 4, 2015
constitution cover

The US Constitution – the oldest in the world – gets a comprehensive new biography

‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

May 1, 2015
‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

Renowned classicist and historian Peter Green has at last produced a translation of the Iliad – and it comes with its own Greek Chorus. Steve Donoghue investigates.

Hectic Hyperborea

May 1, 2015
Hectic Hyperborea

Michael Pye’s new book provides a rich history of the North Sea in human culture – and pokes holes in some crass nationalist myth-making along the way. Matt Ray reviews The Edge of the World.

Book Review: Infamy

April 28, 2015
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In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States summarily imprisoned thousands of its Japanese citizens for the duration of the war. Richard Reeves’ passionate new book tells the story

Book Review: In These Times

April 27, 2015
in these times cover

Jenny Uglow’s new book goes into lively detail about how ordinary people in Britain experienced the cataclysmic events of the wars of the Napoleonic era

Book Review: The Last Days of George Armstrong Custer

April 26, 2015
last days cover

Author Thom Hatch promises mind-blowing new revelations in his book on the Battle of Little Bighorn. And in other news, Rutherford B. Hayes is rumored to be contemplating a run for president.

Book Review: The Intimate Bond

April 23, 2015
the intimate bond cover

An extremely winning new book explores the enormous ways eight particular animal kinds have altered the course of human life on Earth

Book Review: Dead Wake

April 22, 2015
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One hundred years ago, a German U-boat sank the RMS Lusitania, with grievous loss of civilian life. The anniversary is observed by one of our best popular historians

Book Review: Princes at War

April 22, 2015
princes at war cover

A chatty, vivacious new book tracks the four sons of the Royal House of Windsor during the years of World War Two

Book Review: Hell from the Heavens

April 18, 2015
hell from the heavens

In April of 1945, the destroyer USS Laffey was bombarded by wave after wave of kamikaze fighters – and yet survived. A gripping new book tells the story of a ship that refused to die

Book Review: “They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else”

April 16, 2015
armenian genocide suny cover

In time for the hundred-year anniversary of the Ottoman killing of over a million Armenians, a gripping new history tells the whole story of the tragedy

Book Review: Their Last Full Measure

April 14, 2015
their last full measure cover

The tense and frantic final months of the American Civil War forms the backdrop for Joseph Wheelan’s lively new book

Book Review: KL

April 11, 2015
kl cover

The sprawling system of concentration camps established by the Nazis gets its first comprehensive history

Book Review: Madness in Civilization

April 9, 2015
madness in civilization cover

A fantastic, important new study traces the history of insanity in human history

Book Review: France 1940

April 8, 2015
france 1940 cover

The military collapse of France in 1940 has been a punch line and byword for decades, but a provocative new book argues that the traditional view is too simple

Protean Things

April 8, 2015
Protean Things

Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have made their way to the stage on the expert handling of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Zach Rabiroff had front row center.

Book Review: One of Us

April 7, 2015
one of us cover

In 2011, a man detonated a bomb in Oslo and then shot dozens of people on a nearby island before surrendering to police. A vivid new book tells the whole story of the victims – and the killer

Book Review: Hitler’s Shadow Empire

April 5, 2015
hitler’s shadow empire cover

In 1936 Nazi Germany poured money and manpower into backing General Franco in the Spanish Civil War; a new history powerfully re-interprets that fraught relationship

Book Review: Ministers at War

April 4, 2015
ministers at war cover

A new book tells the story of the War Cabinet Winston Churchill assembled to fight the Second World War

Book Review: Secret Warriors

April 3, 2015
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Beyond the battles and trenches of the First World War, a dozen less glamorous but no less vital fights were being waged – in laboratories and darkrooms and publishing offices. A vibrant new book tells the story of the other World War I

Book Review: King John and the Road to Magna Carta

April 2, 2015
king john uk cover

800 years ago, King John “Lackland” sealed Magna Carta and unwittingly laid the foundation for some of Western law; a new book takes a fresh look at this much-maligned figure

Book Review: The Baltic

April 1, 2015
the baltic cover

For more than a thousand years, the sprawling area of the Baltic has played host to history, art, and fitful commerce – a new history tells the story.

“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

April 1, 2015
“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

In Michel Houellebecq’s uncannily timely new novel, the triumph of an Islamist government relieves the dreary banality that defines the secular France of the 21st century.

Mary Anne and the Adventurer

April 1, 2015
Mary Anne and the Adventurer

Traditional cynicism has always maintained that Benjamin Disraeli married Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis primarily for her money, but a new book argues that the real picture was a good deal more complex – and interesting – than that.

Press Enter

April 1, 2015
Press Enter

Author Jacob Silverman contends in his new book that the intrusions of social media into our private lives has reached sometimes intolerable extents. But what does he mean by “intolerable”? And who is he counting as “our”?

Members in Good Standing

April 1, 2015
Members in Good Standing

Two books by Mark Leibovitch create a picture of Beltway wheelings and dealings that’s almost unbearably incestuous, with virtually no lines drawn between elected officials and profiteering lobbyists. Greg Waldmann plumbs the depths and reports back.

Unmaking L’empereur

April 1, 2015
Unmaking <em>L’empereur</em>

The 2nd Light Battalion King’s Division played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo, as a slim new history by Brendan Simms demonstrates. Matt Ray reviews the book in his Open Letters debut.

Book Review: American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan

March 31, 2015
uncommon liberalism cover

American senator, author, and statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s complex and constantly-evolving political philosophy is the subject of a pointed new book

Book Review: Washington’s Circle

March 30, 2015
washington’s circle cover

A fantastic new book tells the story of President Washington and the extraordinary team he assembled to form the new nation’s first administration

Book Review: Ravensbruck

March 28, 2015
ravensbruck cover

In 1939 the Nazis established their only concentration camp specifically for women; a comprehensive new book tells the history of Ravensbruck

Book Review: The Big Trial

March 26, 2015
the big trial cover

From Lizzie Borden to O. J. Simpson, big public show-trials have fascinated the American people. In his new book, renowned legal historian Lawrence Friedman tries to dissect why that is.

Book Review: Akhenaten & The Origins of Monotheism

March 16, 2015
akhenaten & the origins of monotheism

The rebel pharaoh who instituted a radical new monotheism gets a highly-detailed and revisionist investigation

Book Review: The Fall of the Ottomans

March 4, 2015
fall of the ottomans uscover

The Ottoman Empire joined the fighting of the First World War deeply misunderstood by both sides; a charismatic new book seeks to clarify the story of that odd meeting of East and West

The Art of Socialist America

March 1, 2015
The Art of Socialist America

The Works Progress Administration did more than set thousand of Americans to building bridges and roads in the 1930s; it also fostered art, as an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Art Gallery lavishly illustrates.

Book Review: Killers of the King

February 27, 2015
killers of the king cover

Under the direction of Oliver Cromwell, dozens of men deliberated to execute the captive King Charles I, and when Charles II came to power a decade later, those men were suddenly in the gravest danger. A fascinating new book tells their stories.

Book Review: The Reagan Era

February 25, 2015
the reagan era cover

A new book takes an intense look at the presidency of Ronald Reagan

Book Review: American Reckoning

February 22, 2015
Book Review: American Reckoning

A harrowing new book looks at the many spaces the Vietnam Was has occupied in the American mental landscape

Book Review: Cold War Modernists

February 19, 2015
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The clashes of the Cold War weren’t just matters of missiles and border guards; they also enlisted honey-voiced broadcasters, drunken novelists, and bookish magazine editors, as a fascinating new book makes clear

Book Review: The Summit – Bretton Woods, 1944

February 17, 2015
the summit cover

In 1944 a contentious group of delegates gathered in New Hampshire in order to lay out a blueprint for the postwar world economy; a great new history tells the story of Bretton Woods

Book Review: The Strategist

February 14, 2015
the strategist cover

Two-time National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft kept a low profile (and a negligible paper trail) throughout a lifetime in Washington power-dealing; a compelling new book profiles the ultimate Oval Office insider

Book Review: Gods, Guns, Grits, and Gravy

February 7, 2015
gods guns cover

Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee offers a plea for understanding the ‘flyover states’ where, he claims, real people lead real lives

Book Review: Thieves’ Road

February 6, 2015
thieves road cover

Two years before he gained fame in the most painful way imaginable at the Battle of Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer led a large expedition into the Black Hills sacred to the Sioux – in search of gold

Book Review: The Dogs Are Eating Them Now

February 3, 2015
the dogs are eating them now cover

One of the most experienced reporters to cover the war in Afghanistan writes up his experiences

Book Review: Phantom Terror

February 2, 2015
phantom terror cover

In his new book, historian Adam Zamoyski paints a picture of a Europe convulsed with fear of upheavals like the French Revolution and the tyranny of Bonaparte – and willing to do anything to prevent them

Book Review: A Superpower Transformed

February 1, 2015
superpower transformed cover

A paradigm-shifting new book looks at the turbulent decade of the 1970s in United States politics and the re-shaping of the world

Second Glance: For Eternity

February 1, 2015
Second Glance: For Eternity

John Bunyan’s book-length religious allegory Pilgrim’s Progress strikes many of today’s readers as hopelessly hokey and tone-deaf – but it still has abundant power to change lives, as one passionate reader attests.

These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

February 1, 2015
These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

A new reprint line from the New York Review of Books concentrates on literature from – and on – China’s long literary history, and the first three volumes offer the strange, the familiar, and the beautiful.

The Buildup of Erasure

February 1, 2015
The Buildup of Erasure

Claudia Rankine articulates the truths of the black experience so poignantly in her celebrated collection Citizen by putting them, paradoxically, both plainly and artfully.

Faith-Based Initiative

February 1, 2015
Barack_Obama_and_John_Boehner_enjoying_Saint_Patrick’s_Day_2014

In his new book City of Rivals, James Grumet takes a gloomy close-up look at America’s deeply dysfunctional Congress and offers some solutions. But are those solutions dysfunctional too?

Book Review: One Nation, Under Gods

January 30, 2015
one nation cover

From the Puritans and their city on a hill to the Mormons to modern-day charlatans, the story of the United States is the story of competing faiths; a lively new book looks at that complicated tapestry

Book Review: Like A Bomb Going Off

January 27, 2015
like a bomb going off cover

Revolutionary Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson fought prejudice, rivals, and the omnipresent Soviet censors to pursue his art, as a magnificent new book narrates

Book Review: American Passage

January 23, 2015
american passage cover

For the earliest New England settlers, there were no roads through the wilderness – only the pathways used by suspicious and distrustful natives. And yet, the desire to share news was as strong as ever – a fascinating new book looks at the ways gossip travels in the woods.

Book Review: The Middle Ages

January 18, 2015
the middle ages cover

A nimble and tremendously engaging history of the Middle Ages finally gets translated into English

What Jona Knew

January 1, 2015
What Jona Knew

It’s comforting to believe there are lessons to be learned from the Holocaust, or to treat it as a story about the triumph of the human spirit. Jona Oberski’s Childhood rightly refuses us these consolations.

Plying the Darkness

January 1, 2015
Plying the Darkness

Brian Turner’s complex, lyrical meditations on his tour of duty in Iraq make us ache with the privilege that is a war memoir.

Independence Day

January 1, 2015
Independence Day

Two recent votes on independence remind us that globalization has not put an end to nationalism. A new book on the 1995 Quebec referendum highlights just how complicated a people’s “yes” or “no” votes really are.

Harm Him, Harm Me

January 1, 2015
Harm Him, Harm Me

Historical novelist Andrew Levkoff stuffs the last installment of his “Bow of Heaven” trilogy with battles, love, loyalty betrayed, crucifixion, cross-purposes, loyalty regained, and deep reflections on what it all means.

Enlisted Again

January 1, 2015
Enlisted Again

Once he’d led the Continental Army to victory, General George Washington retired to his Mount Vernon home – but the newborn country wasn’t done with him yet. A new book looks at First Citizen Washington.

From the Archives: The Grey Zone

January 1, 2015
From the Archives: The Grey Zone

Gertrude van Tijn helped more than 20,000 Jews escape occupied Holland. What does it mean that, in saving their lives, she had to collaborate with Nazis?

Pointez, Pointez!

December 1, 2014
Pointez, Pointez!

Hugely talented biographer Andrew Roberts has written a big biography of Napoleon Bonaparte – but when it comes to such a well-known figure, are readers in danger of fatigue de bataille?

Unwise Counsel

December 1, 2014
Unwise Counsel

Leon Panetta, old Washington fixture and former member of the Obama administration, criticizes the president in his new memoir. But does he have anything to say?

#NotAllNazis

December 1, 2014
#NotAllNazis

What would you do if your artistic survival suddenly depended on the whims of a brutal dictatorship? How far would you compromise? How much would you risk? A new book studies artists in the Third Reich.

Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

December 1, 2014
Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

Can a book about the Jewish Diaspora add anything useful on the topic if it’s uninterested in Jewish history and slightly dodgy about the Diaspora? Jordan MaGill gives Alan Wolfe’s At Home in Exile a close reading.

“He hit the Constitution much as the Lord hit chaos…”

December 1, 2014
“He hit the Constitution much as the Lord hit chaos…”

There were layers and layers to John Marshall, one of America’s first and in many ways most important Chief Justices of the Supreme Court – but just how deep does the latest biography go?

“Cambridge should come to us”

December 1, 2014
“Cambridge should come to us”

“Our belief in Literature has collapsed” Lars Iyer once wrote, but his new novel Wittgenstein Jr, the story of a passionate philosophy professor and his apathetic students, bristles with literary faith.

Thinking in Common

November 1, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

November 1, 2014
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include <em>What It Takes</em> by Richard Ben Cramer

Just in time for the November midterm elections, we do what doubters said couldn’t be done: we present you with a list of ten great political books that doesn’t include Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes.

The Book of Abraham

November 1, 2014
The Book of Abraham

Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.

From the Archives: A Certain Perturbation

November 1, 2014
robinsonyale

In Absence of Mind, Marilynne Robinson explores both the dynamics of faith and the complacency of recent anti-faith screeds. But is her own book something of a fall from grace?

Grosz Anatomy

October 1, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Coalition of the Chilling

October 1, 2014
Coalition of the Chilling

A British historian’s richly-sourced accounting of Molotov-Ribbentrop offers fresh insights into this Nazi-Soviet pact of “non-aggression.”

Hidden in Plain Sight

October 1, 2014
Hidden in Plain Sight

A new book blames Pakistan for the carnage in Afghanistan. But what does “Pakistan” really mean when its government is so fraught with dissension?

WAKE UUUUP!

October 1, 2014
WAKE UUUUP!

What does the summer of 1989, when Do the Right Thing hit theaters, have to say to the summer of Ferguson, and police militarization, and race relations today?

The Lion’s Den

September 1, 2014
The Lion’s Den

We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.

Words Plucked from Our Tongues

September 1, 2014
Words Plucked from Our Tongues

Can Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda heal Canada’s colonial relationship with its First Nations? Why should we expect literature to succeed where our leaders have failed?

The Done Thing

September 1, 2014
The Done Thing

England had been at war with France almost continuously since the Norman Conquest, but in the Hundred Years War, the conflict became especially heightened – and transformative. A new history tells the story as a rattling good yarn.

High and Outside

September 1, 2014
High and Outside

Uncertain Justice, by Lawrence Tribe and Joshua Matz, suggests that personality plays a greater role than ideology in today’s Supreme Court. David Culberg assesses the arguments.

From the Archives: The Battle for Justice in Palestine

September 1, 2014
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A controversial author’s latest and most devastating indictment of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens and neighbors

From the Archives: A False Quarrel

September 1, 2014
Sari Nusseibeh

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems depressingly intractable, an impasse without end. A new book offers a hypothetical solution, but is it foolish idealism, unworkable pragmatism – or a desperately innovative kind of hope?

Socrates Offside

August 1, 2014
Socrates Offside

What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?

Troubled Sheep

August 1, 2014
Troubled Sheep

William Deresiewicz has written-up some admonitions for gifted children of privilege: beware of status-mongering, ignorance of other classes, greed. But is his book itself just a wee bit … privileged?

Twenty Feet Tall!

August 1, 2014
Twenty Feet Tall!

The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.

From the Archives: Playing the Shadow Game

August 1, 2014
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Since the days of T.E. Lawrence, reporters have been providing the West with carefully-wrought (or overwrought) tales of the Middle East. A new book comments on the excesses–and maybe commits a few too.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.

Pashtunwali

July 1, 2014
Pashtunwali

Of all the borders in the world, the Durand line is perhaps the most dangerous. A new book seeks to explain the Taliban, who plague the peoples on both sides of it.

The Reign of Saturn

July 1, 2014
The Reign of Saturn

Babe Ruth, Mayor Walker, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker – New York City in the Jazz Age was a bristling landscape of giants, most of them from out of town. A vast and enthralling new history tells the stories of the people who made the Big Apple.

2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

July 1, 2014
2nd Amendment Fundamentalists

“You can throw out every damn other thing in the Constitution, as long as you don’t touch my guns,” one Southern U.S. Senator famously bellowed, perfectly typifying a certain psychosis. A new book picks fights on history of American gun law.

Peer Review: “We’ve All Been Wrong! Incredible!”

June 1, 2014
Peer Review: “We’ve All Been Wrong! Incredible!”

Thomas Piketty’s great mountain of Gallic macro-economics, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was the hit of the Western world for one heady season. Then the parade moved on, and we were left, dazed and disheveled, wondering if we’ve been fed un truc de ouf. Our Peer Review attempts to sort out the l’affaire Piketty

Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

June 1, 2014
Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

With suicides on the rise throughout the Western world, a recent study by Jennifer Hecht attempts to both diagnose the frightening trend and evangelize against it. Ivan Kenneally discusses how effective her arguments are likely to be.

Dervishes and Gypsies

June 1, 2014
Dervishes and Gypsies

Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International

Words at the Grave

June 1, 2014
Words at the Grave

On Marx, the latest chip off the block of Alan Ryan’s 2-volume On Politics, focuses on the founder of Marxism – but Ryan’s a man in a hurry, and the devil is in the details.

Circumspice

May 1, 2014
Circumspice

Ronald Reagan single-handedly ended the Cold War at Reykjavik in 1985. And if you believe that, his loyal aid Ken Adelman has a book to sell you.

Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

May 1, 2014
Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

A fascinating new book tells the remarkable stories of five ‘improbable’ women who defied convention to explore the much mythologised landscape of the Middle East.

So Why Write?

May 1, 2014
So Why Write?

As the world’s supply of writers outpaces the world’s demand for their books, the financial returns for writing have fallen to laughable levels. Then why keep doing it? Paul Griffin explores the problem of writing and money.

Ariel: Shelley in Italy

May 1, 2014
Ariel: Shelley in Italy

Like so many before him, the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a tangled and complicated history with Italy, equal parts inspiration and frustration. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story

Sermons from the Ivory Tower

April 1, 2014
Sermons from the Ivory Tower

A thoughtful exploration of what it means to teach the humanities would be a welcome intervention in the never-ending talk of crisis. Unfortunately, Why Teach? is not that book.

The Word Made Flesh

April 1, 2014
The Word Made Flesh

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Laylat-al-Qadr

April 1, 2014
Laylat-al-Qadr

A kaleidoscopic new book explores one of history’s sharpest paradoxes: the Age of Liberty was also the Age of Slavery

“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

April 1, 2014
“There Is No Enjoyment in This Life”

Iraqi lawyer and former exile Zaid al-Ali writes a bleak, sobering account of the state of his homeland in the post-“Mission Accomplished” era – but is there any reason for hope?

Not Just Cutting Ribbons

April 1, 2014
Not Just Cutting Ribbons

For the past 25 years, the Irish Presidency has been a wonder to behold: a place where passionate eccentrics can embody a complicated country.

Doubleplusungood

April 1, 2014
Doubleplusungood

Putin’s Soviet predecessors were masters of doublespeak. As Ukraine suffers again, it’s clear that their descendents are now in charge.

Policy Papers: Ukraine and the Left

March 8, 2014
Relief_of_the_Light_Brigade

Russia and the West, talking past each other, have blundered into conflict over Ukraine. Some commentators on the American left aren’t behaving much differently.

The Danelaw

March 1, 2014
The Danelaw

In her brilliantly scathing new book, Elaine Scarry charges that US Presidents, in maintaining and augmenting an enormous nuclear arsenal, have broken the social contract and become monarchs in all but name.

Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

March 1, 2014
Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

The great and problematic poet Robert Browning drew some of his most powerful poetic inspirations from the lore and lure of Italy; Luciano Mangiafico traces the complicated relationship of the man to his “adopted homeland.”

War, in Panorama

February 1, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.

A Disproportionate Response

February 1, 2014
Andrew_Sullivan

For years, pioneering blogger Andrew Sullivan was one of the most vocal supporters of the war in Iraq. Time and the war’s wretched progress gradually forced him to change his thinking, however, and a new collection of his writings on the subject charts the disillusioning step-by-step.

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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No Picnic

January 1, 2014
No Picnic

To literary scholar Laura Frost, the great 20th century modernists created readerly pleasures not through familiar comforts but by transforming difficulty and strangeness into something exciting and new. Daniel Green tests the theory.

Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

January 1, 2014
Dreaming Different Dreams: The Early Russian Dissenters

The Russian dissident writers are largely unknown in the West today, but their work was an inspiration at a time when their compatriots were forbidden to dream different dreams.

Strange Reckoning

January 1, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

January 1, 2014
A Palace and a Prison at Each Hand: Lord Byron in Italy (part 1 of 2)

Byron was mad, bad, and dangerous to know — and eventually his amorous, adventurous spirit led him to Italy.

Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

December 1, 2013
Desperately Seeking Solzhenitsyn

Every correspondent in Moscow wanted to be the first to find Solzhenitsyn after he won the Nobel Prize in 1970. Michael Johson had that honor – but the great Russian writer wasn’t altogether pleased so see him.

Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

December 1, 2013
Studio Matto e Disperatissimo: The Life and Writings of Giacomo Leopardi

He was the greatest Italian poet since Dante, but he was tormented by a strict upbringing, ruinous health, and moods of black pessmism. He was Giacomo Leopardi, and this is his story.

Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

December 1, 2013
Second Glance: Kapuściński’s Africa

Ryszard Kapuściński has courted controversy for the poetic licenses in his groundbreaking works of history. But it’s those leaps of imagination and sympathy that make his 2001 book on Africa, The Shadow of the Sun, a lasting work of art.

It Was Fun, the Struggle

December 1, 2013
It Was Fun, the Struggle

The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.

What Does an African Woman Want in America?

November 1, 2013
What Does an African Woman Want in America?

Chimananda Ngozi Adichie’s expansive novel Americanah centers on a Nigerian woman’s immigration to the United States and eventual return to Nigeria. Orem Ochiel explores what her story says about complex, often traumatic experience of being black and African in the West.

Quick, Off the Mark

November 1, 2013
Quick, Off the Mark

Campaign books have short shelf-lives – and they deserve them, since most of them have about as much introspection as yesterday’s racing form. Greg Waldmann reads a recent book on the pivotal 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Feeding the Monster

November 1, 2013
Feeding the Monster

From the agora 2,400 years ago to the present day, the schools of Plato and Aristotle have been locked in combat; a new book sees the struggle in disarmingly simple terms.

JFK in the Senate

October 5, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

An Inglorious Life

October 1, 2013
An Inglorious Life

Elizabeth Gilbert’s ambitious new novel imagines the life of a 19th-century woman botanist, as insightful as Darwin but lost to history. It’s an interesting project, and a worthy one, but does the novel live up to its premise?

The Spirit of ’79

October 1, 2013
The Spirit of ’79

Two thousand years ago, a bustling seaside town on the Naples coast was engulfed in a sudden, unthinkable catastrophe: the eruption of Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in hot ash and froze it in death for two millennia. Can any museum exhibit capture the irresistible fascination of such a stark human drama?

From the Archives: In the Pocket of Satan

October 1, 2013
Six Women of Salem

A girl, a widow, a matriarch, a mother, a businesswoman, and a minister’s slave: a new history traces the Salem Witch Trials through the lives of six women who paid dearly for their proximity to one of the most mysterious incidents in American history

Homo Sovieticus

September 1, 2013
Homo Sovieticus

The USSR’s Book of Tasty and Healthy Food created an impression of bounty and gourmet splendor; Anya von Bremzen’s memoir Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking reveals the Soviet kitchen’s homelier truths

The Empire Strikes Back

September 1, 2013
The Empire Strikes Back

King and Woolman’s new book Assassination of the Archduke, boasts new sources, very close to Franz Ferdinand and his wife — too close?

From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

September 1, 2013
From the Archives: The Bureaucrat Who Would be King

President, prime minister, or unnamed Tsar, Vladimir Putin is at once ubiquitous and unknowable; a new book examines the many facets of a new species of autocrat.

Behold the Man

August 1, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

In Prague on an Errand

August 1, 2013
In Prague on an Errand

In Caleb Crain’s debut novel, a young man puts his ordinary life on hold and goes to post-revolution Prague in search of all the usual things young people go searching for in Prague. But, as reviewer Yulia Greyman observes, “false selves are a part of love.”

Vegetable Wonder

August 1, 2013
Vegetable Wonder

It became entangled with the imperial hopes of a nation and inspired the design of one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century, the Crystal Palace: a new book explores the remarkable story of the Amazonian water lily.

The Heartless World

August 1, 2013
The Heartless World

‘Everyone knows who won the war,’ runs the refrain of Muriel Rukeyser’s Savage Coast; her newly published 1930 novel about the Spanish Civil War shows what it meant to be a witness to it.

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

July 1, 2013
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012 Continues

Our feature continues, as more Open Letters folk share their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

Mé Féin

June 1, 2013
Mé Féin

Fintan O’Toole is an idealist about Irish republicanism and his books begin a desperately necessary conversation. It’s a bad sign, though, that he can’t quite get past the preliminaries.

Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

June 1, 2013
Keeping Up With The Tudors: Peace, Plenty, Love, Truth, Terror

A debut novel of alternate history spins out one of the most tantalizing hypotheticals of the past: what if Anne Boleyn had managed to give King Henry VIII a healthy male heir? Some of the answers – and some of the resulting mysteries – may surprise you.

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

June 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Magic II.

Bohemian Back Bay was as key to Copley Square as aristocratic Back Bay and black artist models figured not only in Sargent’s work, but in Fred Holland Day’s too.

Failing Gracelessly

May 1, 2013
Failing Gracelessly

The authors have invaluable sources in America’s ‘deep state’ of surveillance and counter-terrorism, but how much secrecy does security justify? And what happened to moral accountability?

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

May 1, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Magic 1

A startling triptych illuminates the crossroads of social, racial, and sexual identity in the Copley Square of a century ago, as “The Gods of Copley Square” continues

Approaching Auschwitz

April 1, 2013
A MAN LOOKS AT PHOTOGRAPHS OF HUNGARIAN JEWS HELD AT THE AUSCHWITZ CONCENTRATION CAMP AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM IN LONDON

An incurious and indifferent Jew journeys to Auschwitz to confront the kitsch and the manicured ruins, looking for a sense of connection – and finding it in the most unlikely places

American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

April 1, 2013
American Aristocracy  |  GODS OF COPLEY SQUARE  |  Centerpiece 7

“The Gods of Copley Square”s spirited multi-part examination of Boston’s Trinity Church (and its indomitable bishop-saint) comes to its conclusion right where it should: at the heart of worship

The Earl of Gallipoli

April 1, 2013
The Earl of Gallipoli

The typical image of Winston Churchill comes from the dark days of World War II: a fat, old, bald Prime Minister eloquently defying Hitler’s Germany. But before there was a monument there was a man, as an engaging new biography brings to light.

From the Archives: Embossed Coins

April 1, 2013
From the Archives: Embossed Coins

Elie Wiesel once claimed “a novel about Treblinka is either not a novel or not about Treblinka.” How does Steve Sem-Sandberg grapple with representing the unrepresentable in his sweeping chronicle of the Łódź ghetto, The Emperor of Lies? A review from our archives.

Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

March 1, 2013
Second Glance: A Virgil or Two

He may not have anything new to tell us today, but as Spencer Lenfield demonstrates, Gilbert Highet’s friendly, engaging pedagogy is still rare enough to keep him relevant.

The Geeks Shall Inherit

March 1, 2013
The Geeks Shall Inherit

We’ve long endowed campaign consultants with shamanistic powers, but now a new truth is beginning to emerge–the people behind the scenes who can do most to win elections are the data analysts and stat nerds.

“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

March 1, 2013
“He Might As Well Have Called Me Nancy!” Mark Twain in Italy

After his first visit to Italy, Mark Twain pronounced her “one vast museum of magnificence and misery,” and yet he returned again and again. Luciano Magniafaco chronicles his journeys.

Judaize This

February 1, 2013
Judaize This

The belief that Jews are the enemy of civilization is one of the West’s most tenacious and systemic ideas. Professor David Nirenberg’s new history offers a vast, seemingly inexhaustible record of a very old, very useful hatred.

Puce Needle Diggings

February 1, 2013
Puce Needle Diggings

When the Paris Review, long regarded as a literary standard-bearer, publishes a volume on the art of the short story, it flushes a flurry of conversations into the open: what is a short story? What constitutes an anthology-worthy example? What’s the audience for this kind of thing? And: can these stories answer such questions?

Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

February 1, 2013
Epstein’s Kaleidoscope

Joseph Epstein has a cult following as a sharp-tongued critic and essayist. His latest collection showcases his love of words and ideas as well as his caustic wit.

Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

February 1, 2013
Back, Back, Down the Old Ways of Time: D. H. Lawrence in Italy

Year after year, D. H.Lawrence found love, lust, and gainful employment in Italy – and through the strange alchemy of the place, he also found the inspirations for some of his most enduring works of art.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 6

February 1, 2013
TrinityHarvardLibrary

Lost to history, here re-discovered, Trinity Chancel –“a daring enterprise in its day, as original an expression and as unique as was the genius of the American people.”

Entred in a Spacious Court

January 1, 2013
Entred in a Spacious Court

Ben Jonson said that the once wealthy and acclaimed Edmund Spenser died “for want of bread”; a new biography tries to disentangle myth from fact, and to make the case for the great poet’s relevance today

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

January 1, 2013
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 5

A rumor of Narnia at Trinity Church prompts two questions. Can a building have a spiritual life? Can a work of art not? Phillips Brooks and the idea of ecstasy

Sharing A Cab

December 1, 2012
Sharing A Cab

Give Anthony Burgess a check and he’d write anything, even a Time-Life picture book. Which doesn’t mean that his 1976 guide to New York is anything less than fascinating.

Too Much Signal

December 1, 2012
Too Much Signal

Nate Silver is currently enjoying his status as that unlikeliest of people, the celebrity statistician. Does his bestseller The Signal and the Noise live up to its carefully calculated expectations?

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 4

December 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 4

“Truth is Catholic, but the search for it is Protestant,” quoth W.H. Auden, and this month Phillips Brooks is at Lourdes, of all places, his liking for which can only be explained by his experiences at Benares.

The Evolutionary: Barack Obama’s First Term in the White House

November 1, 2012
The Evolutionary: Barack Obama’s First Term in the White House

Four years ago, Barack Obama won the U.S. presidency on a platform of hope and change. This month, as he fights for re-election, Greg Waldmann takes a detailed look at the incumbent’s first term.

The Power Season

November 1, 2012
The Power Season

As Americans go to the polls this month to elect a president, some recent biographies examine the lives of five very different men who once held the office.

American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square – Centerpiece 3

November 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods of Copley Square –  Centerpiece 3

“Perhaps a little drunk might answer” was Phillips Brooks’s idea of how to view Pre-Raphaelite art, several masterpieces of which he commissioned for Trinity Church. “Centerpiece” continues.

From The Archives: Raging Bull

November 1, 2012
From The Archives: Raging Bull

In this tensely-charged election year, all eyes fix on the blogosphere – of 1787. Jeffrey Eaton signs us in to Library of America’s 2-volume Debate on the Constitution and fills the comments field.

A Man Apart

October 1, 2012
A Man Apart

Mitt Romney’s diatribe at a Boca Raton fundraiser may have torpedoed his candidacy. Was he just pandering, or did he actually mean all of those things he said?

Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

October 1, 2012
Nine Ways of Looking at D’Annunzio

Madman, lothario, despot, drug fiend, friend and enemy of Mussolini – and immortal poet. Gabriele D’Annunzio was all of these things and many more in his whirlwind of a life.

American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

October 1, 2012
American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 2

Henry Adams on the road to Chartres, Phillips Brooks on the Madonna of the prairie, and John La Farge on why he worried Trinity Church had “no heart” — The Gods of Copley Square continues

Change-gamer

October 1, 2012
TPM2012

Election-weary Americans might wonder why anybody in their right minds would elect to play a video-game presidential contest – but the process can be oddly enlightening.

Books Before and After

September 1, 2012
6

It’s a bridge, a barrier, and a burden; it’s used in the bedroom, the kitchen, and the outhouse. Leah Price helps us think again about what we can, should, or want to do with that most fetishized of objects: the book.

‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

September 1, 2012
‘Stop, traveler, and piss!’

Lord Castlereagh lives in infamy as the target of the Romantic Poets’ most vicious insults, but one biography tries to salvage his reputation. Was the statesman a scourge of liberalism or pragmatist of Enlightenment ideals?

Attainted: The Life and Afterlife of Ezra Pound in Italy

September 1, 2012
ep

Pound wrote The Pisan Cantos on toilet paper while prisoner in an open-air metal cage during WWII, and he spent many of the following years in mental hospitals. “I can get along with crazy people,” he quipped. “It’s only the fools I can’t stand.”

In Praise of the Practitioner

September 1, 2012
GZhukov

Was General Zhukov the greatest general to order mass executions of his own soldiers? Was he the single most decisive factor in beating Hitler? A new biography opens more questions than it answers.

American Aristocracy: Gods Of Copley Square – Centerpiece 1 

September 1, 2012
shades of moscow

Byzantium rediscovered. An American in Venice and a forgotten Madonna (which breaks the rules) in Copley Square. Behold an American Hagia Sophia

A Hostage Worth Ransoming

September 1, 2012
A Hostage Worth Ransoming

Who’s at fault for our disastrous politics — both parties? Not a chance, say Washington insiders Ornstein and Mann. Our resident politico fisks their analysis.

Those Feet

August 1, 2012
CoF

This summer’s London Olympics take us back to 1981’s Chariots of Fire, the 1924 Olympics, and the poetry of William Blake. The connection? All remind us of the fragility of glory and our endless wish to make the past present.

We Could Have Beaten Kennedy…

August 1, 2012
LBJ-RFK-JFK

Lyndon Johnson rained destruction on Vietnam and championed civil rights, amassed a secret fortune and fought for the needy. His paradoxical life continues in the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s epic biography.

A Writ of Certiorari

August 1, 2012
37

A contentious Supreme Court in the headlines is hardly a new thing – nor is the Court being used for partisan politics and the brinksmanship of history, as Noah Feldman’s Scorpions makes clear

A Man Without Divisions

August 1, 2012
Prejudices

“He calls you a swine,” Walter Lippmann once wrote of H.L. Mencken, “and he increases your will to live.” A reissue of Mencken’s 1926 rabble-rouser Notes on Democracy shows the journalist at his insulting, rejuvenating best.

Century 16, Aurora

July 20, 2012
pic 2

In the wake of today’s news from Connecticut, we are reposting a note written by our Executive Editor following the shootings in Aurora earlier this year.

Roberts Saves POTUS and SCOTUS

July 1, 2012
Roberts Saves POTUS and SCOTUS

We may never know with certainty what brought Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to cast the deciding vote to uphold the Affordable Care Act and salvage the chief accomplishment of Barack Obama’s presidency. But …

American Aristocracy: The Gods of Copley Square – Cornerstone

July 1, 2012
bell cellar

Boston’s iconic Copley Square – with its Trinity Church and its Public Library – is a present-day tourist hotspot, but those visitors hardly suspect the deep and rich history of the area. American Aristocracy continues.

What the Duchess of Argyll’s Maid told Dicky Pigg-Wilcott’s Valet at Ascot in ’08!

July 1, 2012
LadyColinCampbell

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was a cherished and beloved fixture of the British royal family for almost a century (and would certainly have stolen the show at her daughter’s Diamond Jubilee, had she lived to see it) – but a new book claims the Queen Mum was just an ordinary human being – and not always a very nice one

We Are Oil

June 1, 2012
We Are Oil

Just how powerful is Exxon Mobil? Who can they pay off and which governments are they propping up? Steve Coll’s new book explores the dark side of power and light.

Keeping Up With the Windsors – The Invisible Woman

June 1, 2012
HMQEIIHC

She’s occupied the throne of Great Britain and the Commonwealth for 60 years, and in June Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Three new biographies try to understand the woman wearing the crown.

Second Glance: Halberstam’s Vietnam and The Anxiety of Power

June 1, 2012
vietn

McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, RFK, JFK, LBJ–these were the best and the brightest of David Halberstam’s landmark study of American politics during the Vietnam War. The book is now 40 years old and its lessons are as vital as ever.

American Aristocracy – Beethoven In Granite: The Boston Brahmin Aesthetic

June 1, 2012
dst – 2

Intertwining through Boston history: the rich, implacable music of Beethoven and the flinty austerity of the Boston Granite style of architecture – trace the connections, as American Aristocracy continues.

From the Archives: Supping with Glaucus: A Tour of Roman Historical Fiction

June 1, 2012
barba_the_slaver

Steve Donoghue takes the emperor’s box to thumbs-up or thumbs-down an array of Roman historical novels, as “A Year with the Romans” continues.

From the Archives: Crowned and Anointed

June 1, 2012
bodice

Ian Manfred St. Cyr settles in with Maureen Waller’s Sovereign Ladies, a biography of “the six reigning queens of England” and suggests that the author’s headcount may be a little low.

All the World to Nothing

May 1, 2012
9

The real mystery of Richard III is not the fate of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower, but why we never tire of telling and re-telling his story. What do we really see when we stare at his enigmatic portrait?

Keeping Up With the Tudors: Lizard on a Rock

May 1, 2012
Henry-VII

He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited new biography seeks to change that.

Monumental and Fragile

May 1, 2012
sikuquanshu

No form of literature seems as thoroughly doomed in the 21st century as the printed encyclopedia, but even dinosaurs can have rich and rewarding life-stories. Where did we go, before we all went to the Internet?

Ghost Town Apostle

May 1, 2012
abandoned-house

Ken Layne’s political writing is sharp and raucus, and a novel about a financially devastated near-future United States would seem like a perfect vehicle for more anger. But though that fire is still there, a gentle-but-compelling spiritualist tone has risen to to the fore.

LOL, SRSLY?

May 1, 2012
LOL, SRSLY?

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has made a career of joking about easy political targets – so what happens when she tries to deliver a factual inquiry of a serious subject? Nothing funny, as Greg Waldmann discovers.

No Strange Quirk of Fate

May 1, 2012
Avengers

This month sees the arrival of the long-awaited $250 million dollar Hollywood movie adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Avengers. Lost in all the hype is the rich history of the comic itself; Justin Hickey explores the convergence of pulp and pixels.

American Aristocracy – Civil War: Pride and Shame on the Via Sacra

May 1, 2012
WilliamJames

The clash between Brahmin liberalism and the legacy of slave-trading focuses on a monument to the men who redeemed a city and ransomed a nation. “American Aristocracy” continues.

Good Enough

April 1, 2012
Good Enough

A new book takes readers back to a time when, according to historian Ira Shapiro, politics could sometimes be noble and senators could sometimes be giants.

Odi et Amo

April 1, 2012
Catullus

The work of the Roman poet Catullus has always challenged the received idioms of poetry and society, and a daring new translation both underscores and undermines that iconoclastic Catullan stance.

The People’s Prisoner

April 1, 2012
TiananmenSquareJune289

When the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 2010, it was given to an empty chair. Its recipient, Liu Xiaobo, was in prison for advocating human rights in China. Though he is still incarcerated, a collection of essays sheds light on his thought and struggle.

American Aristocracy – Harvard Pulpit: Boston Brahmin Liberalism

April 1, 2012
MIT postcard

To the quintessential virtues the Puritans lent to a fledgling republic – globality, philantropy, and autonomy – the ‘speaking aristocracy’ of the Boston Brahmins added one more: the love of learning

Designing Desire

April 1, 2012
Steve_Jobs_and_Bill_Gates

Steve Jobs, the visionary predator who founded Apple and forged a new way of thinking about technology, wasn’t a particularly nice man (as even his dutiful biographer must occasionally concede) – but was he a genius?

A Man Could Stand Up: On Downton Abbey’s Second Season

April 1, 2012
ethel-and-the-major

Unlike the soap operas with which it is often dismissively aligned, Downton Abbey is defined by change rather than stasis – by its beautifully produced attention to social evolution.

When She Was Lost

April 1, 2012
bainbridge

One hundred years ago this month, the luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, with the loss of over 1500 lives. The centenary has released a flood of books, including some gems not to be missed.

Breitbart at Rest

March 3, 2012
andrew-breitbart

Andrew Breitbart, the brash, conservative media warrior, died a few days ago. He was by all accounts a wonderful husband, father, and friend – but should that matter?

Cato of the Antipodes

March 1, 2012
1321632

Of his 60+ books, one in particular, The United States, is best representative of his work as a whole and, by readers, best loved. On the Collected Essays of Gore Vidal.

Romney After Florida

February 1, 2012
Romney_2011_Paradise_Valley,_AZ

After a brutal six months, Mitt Romney has won Florida and almost certainly the GOP nomination. Democrats and Republicans are rightly focused on his record, but they’re each doing it for the wrong reasons.

The Apparatchik

February 1, 2012
condoleezza-rice

For two terms, first as National Security Advisor and then as Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice was the most – often the only – likeable face of the George W. Bush administration. But does this quintessential team player break ranks in her new memoir?

‘I am Thy Man’

February 1, 2012
HundredYearsWar

He fought a world war with France, survived the Black Death, and gave England a real Parliament. Froissart and Chaucer loved him, Shakespeare (almost) wrote about him, and the Victorians disparaged him. He was Edward III, and he has a king-sized new biography from Yale University Press.

On Reading a Five-Volume Biography of Prince Albert

January 1, 2012
princealbertqueenvictoriawedding

Maligned as nothing but handsome breeding stock, this German import did more to redefine the role of the monarchy than any subsequent royal, consort or king.

American Aristocracy – Brahmin Dreams: In Search of the Capital of The World

January 1, 2012
fatkd

Boston without Brahmins, like Vienna without Jews, frames shifting capitoline visions, visions much more in the spirit than most realize of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., who actually wrote: ‘It dwarfs the mind to feed it on any localism.’

Generalissimo

January 1, 2012
madison

James Madison was more cautious and purposeful than the temperamental Hamilton or the effusive Jefferson. Indeed, to paraphrase Brookhiser, Hamilton was a rocket, Jefferson was a kite, Madison was a ballast.

Over Grinton Bridge: Riding into the Heart of Reformation

December 1, 2011
2

A rich, beautiful, but sadly neglected historical masterpiece: Hilda Prescott’s The Man on a Donkey is the War and Peace of the English Reformation

The Prince of Now and Then

December 1, 2011
william

He lost his famous mother when he was a boy, became a teen idol, had a storybook wedding, and he’s second in line to be King of England. The monarchy Prince William inherits will be like nothing his predecessors have experienced – if it exists at all. “A Year with the Windsors” concludes.

An American in China

November 1, 2011
wartrashhajin

A meticulously-researched rendition of the horrifying massacres that comprised the “Rape of Nanjing” is the backdrop for Ha Jin’s latest telegraphic and affecting novel.

A Heartbeat Away

November 1, 2011
Dick Cheney

John Nance Garner famously referred to the vice presidency as being not worth a bucket of warm, er, spit – and yet, during the two terms of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney used that office to wield unprecedented power. The former vice president writes an unapologetic memoir.

In Lieu of a Drink

November 1, 2011
hitchenshat

Provocative public intellectual/muckraker Christopher Hitchens offers an enormous volume of collected essays and articles, probably his last.

The Steward

November 1, 2011
harrycharles

He’s been waiting for the throne longer than any Prince of Wales before him, and he’s changed the nature of the monarchy while he’s been waiting. But will we ever see King Charles III? ‘A Year with the Windsors’ takes a look at the heir.

American Aristocracy – Letter from Boston: Toward a New History

October 1, 2011
prendergast-west-church

Boston, so often reproved for living in its memories, may well be poised to lead the future, not in spite of its history but because of it.

Chairman of the Board

October 1, 2011
bpimlottthequeen

Lodestar or mirror? Passé or ne plus ultra? Elizabeth II has presided with consistency over an inconsistent age. And what have we learned of her?

Pseudo-Binaristic Wiki-Okatu

October 1, 2011
interrnets

The key to storytelling is world-building, and a new book wonders if our new and all-encompassing Digital Era has given mankind world-building tools like it’s never had before. Is it the death of the imagination – or Story 2.0?

Splendide Mendax

September 1, 2011
Splendide Mendax

The ethics of Wikileaks (and the antics of its mastermind, Julian Assange) continue to be the focus of controversy – and new books. Greg Waldmann takes a comprehensive look at the entire phenomenon.

Work in Progress

September 1, 2011
triumphofthecity

Could you actually be hurting the environment by going green and moving to the suburbs? A new book champions that oft-maligned human invention: the big city.

Changeable Camelion

September 1, 2011
Painting Poet John Donne

Courtier and cleric, adventurer and ascetic, man of faith and man of the world — John Donne was many things in his life, and a sprawling new Companion does its best to assess them all.

Oblivion

September 1, 2011
chinaberrytree

One of the most significant voices of the Harlem Renaissance was Jessie Redmon Fauset — novelist, essayist, translator, and editor. She’s become obscured behind many of the male writers she published, but Joanna Scutts returns her poignant work to the main stage

A Very Ordinary Person

August 1, 2011
george vi at sandringham, 1949

When his brother the king abdicated, shy Prince Bertie suddenly became king – and he was just settling in when the World War II threw his kingdom into chaos. ‘A Year with the Windsors’ continues.

‘Some fights are bigger than others’

August 1, 2011
LousiaThomas

Brothers take opposing sides in World War One, in a gripping biography that reveals the history and politics of America’s role in the conflict.

The Golden Touch

August 1, 2011
bankofnorthamericacurrency

A new biography explores the life of the erratic and headstrong ‘forgotten’ Founding Father who bankrolled a revolution and guided a new republic.

The New Old Atheism

July 1, 2011
9781616143831

Religion is one of those subjects that are too important to be polite about. But can we at least agree to disagree respectfully about the meaning of life?

Folk and Fields Suffice

July 1, 2011
9780713990645

When the tottering Roman Empire abandoned its far-flung outpost of Britain, the natives were forced to fend for themselves. The results were one part “Lord of the Flies” and one part “Camelot.”

A Prison Spotlight

July 1, 2011
9780806533049

Former political radical Susan Rosenberg received the longest sentence ever given for the charge of possessing explosives. Her new memoir revisits her prison experience.

A Very Narrow Area

July 1, 2011
9780465013975

A pivotal part of the Second World War was fought not on land or sea but under the waves – and a new history attributes heroism to both sides.

A Brief for the Defense

June 1, 2011
A Brief for the Defense

If you’re hoping for a heartfelt mea culpa from an architect of two disastrous wars, this isn’t it. Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir is shallow at best, cynically self-serving at worst.

Bohemia Rundown

May 1, 2011
tc

Semiotext(e) is famous for theory and provocation. So what happens when its co-founder takes on the art world in the latest installment of their manifesto series? To begin with, she doesn’t write a manifesto…

A Novelist in Tahrir Square

April 1, 2011
SiestaFrederickLewis

It’s fitting that Ahdaf Soueif is narrating this exciting new chapter in Egypt’s history: for decades she has offered her readers richer, more complicated stories of the Middle East than the commonplace ones of submission and extremism.

Last Days of the Rough Rider

April 1, 2011
RooseveltOnSafari

Theodore Roosevelt left office younger than any American president before him, and renowned biographer Edmund Morris concludes his TR trilogy with a look at the Colonel’s post-power days.

Prince Eddy and the Blackguards

April 1, 2011
prince eddy and princess may

When the heir presumptive, Prince Eddy, died suddenly, the nation and empire was convulsed with mourning – and a century of speculation began! Had the lost prince been a simpleton, a saint, a catamite – even Jack the Ripper?

The Neocon Mask Removed

April 1, 2011
IrvingKristol

The ideology Irving Kristol helped found is inexorably tied to Bush administration, but a posthumous collection of essays reveals different and bracingly diverse origins

Forever Nell

April 1, 2011
‘the duke of monmouth and my lady castlemaine’ by ernest shepard 1

She was an orange-seller, an actress, a whore, and the most popular of Charles II’s many mistresses: Nell Gwynn stars in two new novels.

Out of Sorts

March 1, 2011
metalmoveabletype

Books have been with us for thousands of years, and books about books for very nearly that long. The world of books teems with themes, and in the latest massive Oxford Companion, that world receives a bestiary with hopes of being definitive.

A Light on the Ground

March 1, 2011
aerialflyby

The myth of idyllic rural America dies hard, but the scourges of modern society have long since struck the heartland, including the scourge of drug addiction and drug trafficking. A recent book explores the darkness at the edge of town.

Squid Pro Quo

February 1, 2011
Goldmansachsexecutivestestifysenate

Matt Taibbi is the foremost political-writing muckraker of his generation, matching an acerbic wit with a pressure-cooked prose style. But is there substance behind the bluster?

History Without the Moon

February 1, 2011
DiamonJubilee

Her reign was epic in length and social impact, but it very nearly didn’t happen at all. She ruled through two generations of her people, and she left the British monarchy very different from how she found it. She is Queen Victoria, and our Year with the Windsors starts as it must: with her.

There Can Only Be One

February 1, 2011
SixNationsveteransWar1812

The United States’ first Civil War, Alan Taylor claims, was fought in 1812. Ivan Lett assesses the revisionist argument.

Oh, Henry

February 1, 2011
patrick henry

Patrick Henry uttered one of the most famous lines in American history, and a new biography attempts to claim him for a particular radical strain of popularism in contemporary politics. Give me liberty or give me… historical distortion?

Duel

January 1, 2011
Duel

Nixon’s crimes are known to us all. A new book reveals that his biggest tormentor in the media committed a few of them himself.

Literature is Dead, Long Live Literature

January 1, 2011
dictionaryofreceivedieas

Is the death of literature finally dead? If not, it’s been dealt a healthy blow by Gregory Jusdanis’ Fiction Agonistes, even it art does have to “justify itself in a way not necessary before.”

The Beginning of the End, the Battle at the End, and the End

January 1, 2011
9780312628192

In 1941 Hitler had everything: all of Europe had fallen to his stormtroopers, and he could dispose of lone, defiant England at his leisure. Then he made a Napoleonic gamble: he invaded his one-time ally, Russia. Three new books deal with the Napoleonic results of that gamble.

The Prodigal Brothers

December 1, 2010
gustavmahler

Ever since Cain and Abel, literature has reserved a prominent place for sterling heroes — and the flawed, grasping, and entirely more interesting brothers who live in their shadow.

Simple Man

December 1, 2010
Simple Man

No American president in a generation has so polarized the country as George W. Bush, and his new book will almost certainly polarize its readers. Is it defiant agitprop or heartfelt memoir?

W.

December 1, 2010
george-washington_4964

For two centuries, he’s been the founding myth of his nation: first in war, first in peace, Washington the paragon. Ron Chernow’s new biography does nothing to tarnish that image — but should it?

Misfiring the Canon

December 1, 2010
charleshill

Of the charismatic Yale lecturer one adoring student wrote, “Charles Hill is God,” and in his new book, Hill moves in mysterious ways. He claims that statecraft and the Western canon are inextricably linked — but there are doubters in the temple.

A Day Such as This

November 1, 2010
Battle-of-the-somme-2

The Battle of the Somme has become a watch-word for useless slaughter over worthless ground, but a new book contends that the Somme was actually a victory for the good guys–a ghastly, horrifying victory, but a victory just the same.

The Purposes of Creation

November 1, 2010
0118_cloned_embryo

As reproductive technology has become more advanced, the value of those engineered lives has become more complicated. Two recent novels provide a striking perspective on this growing conflict.

The Lion Saves His Pride

November 1, 2010
The Lion Saves His Pride

Winston Churchill has become such an icon of wartime tenacity that many people tend to forget he had a postwar political career. Barbara Leaming’s 2010 biography examines the last act of a famous man’s career.

…then we are “jingoes”

November 1, 2010
…then we are “jingoes”

A new book argues that Theodore Roosevelt and William Randolph Hearst stampeded the United States into the Spanish-American War to feed imperial ambition and sell some newspapers. Are the roots of modern America rotten?

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Phenomenon of Her

November 1, 2010
Alma-TademaAandCleopatra

She’s one of the most famous names in history, and the only figure in antiquity to rival Julius Caesar’s renown–but what do we really know about Cleopatra? Stacy Schiff’s new biography takes us behind the legend.

“Perception at the Pitch of Passion”

November 1, 2010
baldwin

A catch-all collection of James Baldwin’s essays, letters, and speeches reveals a social commenter whose observations retain their relevance and universality to this day

The 2010 Bestseller Feature

October 1, 2010
obamadiaries

It’s that time of year again, when our writers gird themselves and review all ten books on The New York Times bestseller list. This time around the quarry is bestselling Nonfiction.

Second Glance: The Daringly Sensible Marjorie Hillis

October 1, 2010
Live alone cover

In books such as “Live Alone and Like It” Marjorie Hillis preached independence and practical style to “live-aloner” working women of the 1930s and beyond

The Curious Disposition

October 1, 2010
The-Merchant-of-Venice-thumb-560xauto-26123

Some of the greatest works of English literature grapple with the dark, knotted roots of anti-Semitism, and the audience is always complicit. A new book studies the tangle of art and atrocity in writers Chaucer to Marlowe to Shakespeare

No Heaven for Suckers

October 1, 2010
machiavelli

He has become synonymous with amoral, cold-hearted political machination, but there was more to Machiavelli than that. A new biography attempts to look at the whole man.

The Mutilated World

October 1, 2010
baghdad-un-cp-1164024

The attacks of 9/11 evoked reactions from writers around the world, and journalist Scott Malcolmson finds fault with a great many of them – but does he do any better a job himself?

In Possession of the Place

October 1, 2010
sissinghurst

Adam Nicolson chronicles his work bringing Sissinghurst castle and its grounds up to date–the delusions of a “hippie-squire” or the worthy restoration of a storied estate?

Keeping Up with the Romans: The Senator Investigates

October 1, 2010
pompeii01

He toadied to a succession of emperors and trembled at the mere thought of being mugged — on the surface, it looks odd to cast Pliny the Younger as a detective. A new mystery novel takes that chance.

The Western Star

September 1, 2010
compromise1850

More than any other figure in American history (including his hated rival Andrew Jackson), Henry Clay towered over the political landscape in the decades before the Civil War; two new books look at his legacy.

Beyond the Pillars of Hercules

September 1, 2010
800px-Feuerbach_symposium

In addition to their gods and goddesses, the ancient Greeks worshiped youth and athletic prowess, and their foremost bard was Pindar.

Fetch My Embroidery!

September 1, 2010
Hepburn-TheLionInWinter-YouTubeImage

Was Eleanor of Aquitaine a power in medieval politics or a glittering figurehead? This wife of two kings and mother of four stars in a new novel by Alison Weir – but will the real Eleanor please stand up?

Uneasy Witness

August 1, 2010
Cows – Slaughter House

Vegetarians choose to be vegetarians and meat-eaters choose to be “normal.” Melanie Joy cuts into the language we use to describe our food and the mindset behind it.

Sounds Simple, Nearly Impossible

August 1, 2010
antietam2

The documentary Restrepo, set in the deepest and most violent American outpost in Afganastan, ushers us “through a door most Americans don’t know about and don’t want to know about”

The Thin, Clear, Happy Call

August 1, 2010
edwardiansense

The sunlit aesthetics of the Edwardian era have been given a new look in this essay collection, and the consensus leans decidedly toward the darker meanings belying those lovely surfaces

An Anvil Unto Sorrow

August 1, 2010
Edward-and-Gaveston

What we know about Edward II came from the brilliant mind of Christopher Marlowe. A new biography seeks to separate the real man from the dramatist’s fertile imagination.

City of Sorrow

August 1, 2010
Ciudad.Juarez

In 2009, Ciudad Juarez reported 2,700 homicides. As Charles Bowden’s new book Murder City shows, the bloody drug-war just south of the border shows no signs of abating

Midlife Magic

August 1, 2010
emmanuel_carrere

Emmanuel Carrere’s memoir is an uneasy blend of sexual fantasy and archival records, of a future with a beautiful young woman and a past haunted by a possible Nazi collaborator

The Ass Made Proud

August 1, 2010
TalentedMrRipleyF

As Mark Twain pointed out a century ago, there’s no evidence the man from Stratford ever read a book, much less owned one, and so the number of books alleging and ‘proving’ evidence of his grand fraud grows and grows …

In Defense of the Memory Theater

July 1, 2010
bookshelves–crespi

Our bookshelves are a hedge against our failing memories, and as such, an extension of our minds. Nathan Schneider explores if and how this sacred role will be preserved in the age of digitization.